Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Step in the name of love

Lately I have been blessed to get to know several men who are in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction. Three are Catholics, a fourth is Anglican, and all feel some tension between their lively, orthodox faith and the Unitarian bent of modern-day twelve-step programs, yet they press on towards the upward call.

Each of these men has touched me strongly with the grace he has received. It seems to me that Christians in recovery are a particularly powerful sign to the world, and especially to those living chastely, because they defy the culture's lie that says joy is impossible when the opportunity to satisfy one's most all-consuming desire is removed.

One of them, Fallen Sparrow, writing in the latest installment of his recent autobiographical series, uses words that speak to me personally, even though the only kind of recovery I have experienced is that from an unchaste life:

The process of recovering, of looking up in hope, is one of waking up. To live entails becoming more fully alive; it is not ever a place of stasis. The hangover morning response to the simple greeting "How are you?", which is, "I'm alive," is in fact a lie; one is simply either coming alive or going to sleep, constantly in motion.

Several years into this process, I have finally begun to accept that I will not, in my time on Earth, be complete or self-sufficient. It is not the repression of desire that leads to completion or fulfillment; it is only in growing in our humanity that we will do so.

I will continue to grow in desire, I hope: in fact, my desires are infinite. In the old life, there was not enough booze or sex or laughter or song to sustain me, even through one night. There still will not be, should I try to seek it out today, yet I know that there is hope for fulfillment in the future: if I am hungry, I can eat, and if tired, I can rest. I am given those little fulfillments here, now, so that I might have faith in the fulfillment of great things in the world to come.

It is a matter, then, not of choosing not to love or thinking oneself unlovable, but rather in placing the weight of desire upon that which can sustain it, and of learning how to love.
In a similar vein, Mark Gauvreau Judge gives an incarnational perspective on the twelve steps in a video tribute to Father Ed Dowling, the Jesuit who was a friend of the real-life Bill W.:

I wish I could remember where I read or heard, very recently, that God became anonymous, so to speak—that is, a nobody—so that I might have my name written in Heaven.